Rachel Allen’s Roasted Aubergine And Chickpea Salad

aubergine chickpea saladI’m a sucker for cookbooks, especially if they are on sale or at a great price. Even if they are the weirdest of titles, like Pooh’s Yummy Cookbook (I actually own this. I bought it ages ago, before my son was born, hoping to cook from it together when he was old enough.)

Some cookbooks you buy for the novelty factor- like the Momofuku MIlk Bar or Roberta’s cookbooks. Some cookbooks are for the purpose of learning and understanding more about a cuisine, like Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking or Mastering The Art Of French Cooking. And some you pick up because they’re on sale. Like I said, I love a great bargain. And when I come across a nice cookbook at a steal, it’ kind of hard to walk away. Which is how I ended up adding Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals to my collection.

The first time I ever saw Rachel Allen was when her show Bake! aired on TLC India. I (kind of) assumed that she was solely a baker and pastry chef, and sweet treats and breads were all she did. It’s only later when I watched her Home Cooking and Easy Meals shows that I realized she is an all-round cook.

rachel allen easy meals collage

I enjoy her shows- especially the segments where she visits patisseries, bread makers, chocolatiers, farms & suppliers and interacts with them. I quite like her approach to food- it’s not scary or dicatorial, it’s not too complicated, and it’s not appallingly semi-homemade like Sandra Lee (who, I agree with Anthony Bourdain, is going to kill people with her food.)

I saw this book at a clearance sale and it was in great condition, and available at a really, really good price. There aren’t as many pictures as Bake! and All Things Sweet, but the recipes do stand up to their promise: they are easy, uncomplicated and from what I’ve tried so far, pretty flavourful.

The book is split into sections, with one dedicated to store-cupboard meals (using a lot of lentils, beans, pasta and chickpeas,) another called Fast & Fabulous dedicated to very very quick meals; another section with 5 ingredients or less; as well as a no-cook section (which has a great beetroot gazpacho recipe and a bunch of salads and tartines.)

I’m a fan of pared-down cooking. Just a few quality ingredients and bright seasoning that shines through. Since I’m all about salads these days, I made the chickpea and roasted aubergine salad. This one is from the Fast & Fabulous section of the book, recipes which take under 30 mins to prepare. The original recipe calls for rocket leaves, but I tore in some basil because I didn’t have any. I think cilantro would work really well, too.

CHICKPEA & AUBERGINE SALAD (From Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals.)


  • 2 red onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 large or 2 medium aubergines, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 400g cooked and drained chickpeas
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • A handful of basil leaves, torn


  • 200 ml yoghurt (a little less than 1 cup of yogurt)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt to taste


  • Preheat the oven to 220 C, set aside a shallow baking dish for the vegetables.
  • In a bowl, toss the onion wedges and aubergines with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.
  • Tip the vegetables into a shallow baking dish and bake in the oven at 220 C for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned.
  • To make the dressing, whisk together the yogurt, paprika and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Once the vegetables are done cooking, assemble the salad. In a large salad bowl, add the chickpeas and season with salt and pepper. Toss in the onions+aubergines, and mix well. Drizzle over the yogurt dressing, then scatter the torn basil leaves on top.

A Store-Cupboard Supper: Caprese-Inspired Baked Eggs

basil tomato chevre baked eggs

So there are some days when my fridge and crisper are scraping the bottom. I put off buying anything till my weekly farm delivery list pops into my email, and I’m making do with very, very bare meals. This was one of those days. I had eggs, and some basil. Cherry tomatoes. Bread. And of course, all kinds of pulses and grains, but I really didn’t want to go the dal-chawal route again.

Inspiration struck when I saw this post on Popsugar Food about caprese salad variations. Now the holy trinity is tomatoes, basil and mozarella. But since I was working with a skeletal fridge and pantry, I made do with what I had: goat’s cheese. I cracked the eggs into ramekins, seasoned with salt and pepper, added the rest of the ingredients and into the oven they went for 12-odd minutes. And dinner was done, just like that. I added some cream to the eggs, it gave the dish a nice silky texture.

Sure, it’s not perfect: but store cupboard meals are never meant to be. But they sure do satisfy!



  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • A few leaves of basil, roughly torn
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • A few teaspoons of olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons cream
  • Goat’s cheese to crumble over the top


  • Preheat the oven to 200 C
  • Drizzle some olive oil in the bottom of each ramekin and crack an egg into each one.
  • Divide equally and scatter the torn basil leaves and tomatoes between each ramekin.
  • Season with salt and pepper and add a tablespoon of cream to each ramekin.
  • Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the white is set and the yolks runny. If you like firmer yolks, bake for 18-20 minutes.
  • Once out of the overn, crumble some goat’s cheese over the top.
  • Serve with bread.

A Simple Summer Chickpea Salad

It’s getting hot in Pune. Unbearably hot. The kind of hot that makes heavy eating, and standing over the stove for too long, a real chore.

I tend to feel sluggish in the warmer months if I eat heavy foods and spicy curries- so chicken curry and sambhar are replaced with pachadi and curd rice. And on many days, we eat salad.

What I love about salads are that they’re pretty forgiving creatures, as long as you have an open mind. There are no must-have or can’t-use ingredients. You can use all kinds of vegetables & herbs, proteins & carbohydrates, nuts & grains to create a really filling, tasty meal-in-a-bowl. Fattoush and panzanella make use of bread, som tam and the Waldorf make use of fruits and nuts, while a classic caeser and nicoise put eggs and fish to good (and delicious!) use.

When I make my salads as a meal, I need to have some form of protein in it. Unfortunately, I am neither Rachel Allen nor Nigella Lawson, so I rarely never have leftover meat from a Sunday roast in the form or chicken strips and beef shreds. So my protein of choice is either canned tuna or kabuli chana, which is a staple in most Indian pantries.

The only cooking this salad requires is boiling the chickpeas- but you are more than welcome to use canned chickpeas. I often pressure-cook a batch of chickpeas (two cups) on Sunday and store them in the fridge for salad or hummus during the week.

So this salad came together on a weekday when it was too hot to cook. It’s simple, and light on the stomach but still keeps you sated. I like adding some kind of nut or seed to my salads this days- they add a lovely bite and crunch, plus they are really good for you. If I’m using almonds, I just soak them and use them raw. With peanuts, I like to toast them lightly in their skin and crush them before adding in. And watermelon and sesame seeds I just sprinkle over the top as they are; though toasting them would be a nice touch.



For The Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Garlic salt, celery salt or store-bought Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

For The Salad

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained
  • 2 medium cucumbers, chopped
  •  8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large red onion, sliced into half moons
  • A fistful each of chopped mint and coriander (optional)
  • A fistful of pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, sunflower seeds or any seeds of your choice. You could also use some soaked raw almonds. (This is also optional.)


  • To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl until evenly combined. Adjust for salt-sweetness-acidity as per your liking, and set aside.
  • For the salad, add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix well. (Use your hands, use tongs, use your kids toy spade, it doesn’t matter!)
  • Pour the dressing over the salad, toss well again and serve.